Chardonnay celebration to highlight CCOVI’s Great Chardo Swap

The grass may be greener on the other side, but what about the vineyards?

The Great Chardo Swap — spearheaded by Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) Senior Scientist Belinda Kemp — explores how vineyard location affects grapes and whether vineyard-specific traits shine through, despite who is making the wine.

The initiative, which sees a dozen winemakers from east and west of the Welland Canal swapping grapes to make Chardonnay, will be highlighted as part of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C) taking place in Niagara July 22 to 24.

Held on the heels of the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium hosted by CCOVI, the i4C kicks off Friday, July 22 with the School of Cool, a day of educational tastings and sessions.

The School of Cool will feature a keynote address by Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford, followed by a special edition of the Great Chardo Swap.

The concept? Six winemakers from east of the Welland Canal make wine from Chardonnay grapes grown on the west side of the canal, and six winemakers from the west side make wine from grapes grown on the east. Beyond using the same juice, closures and bottles, winemakers have free rein to craft their wines however they desire.

Kemp said the Great Chardo Swap was developed as an innovative way to showcase various styles of Ontario’s most widely planted white vinifera grape, Chardonnay. Thus, it was a natural fit for the i4C’s School of Cool, a Chardonnay-centric event focused on delving deep into the diversity of cool climate Chardonnay.

“We wanted to do something that was uniquely Canadian, and we have such distinctive terroir here between the east and west sides of the canal,” said Kemp. “It is interesting to see if specific traits and flavours follow through from one vineyard, regardless of who is making the wine.”

CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis said the institute is “thrilled, as always, to have had the opportunity to collaborate with industry partners like the i4C to develop and deliver educational sessions focused on exploring cool climate winemaking and viticulture.”

“In addition to the School of Cool and Great Chardo Swap, we are excited to once again invite guests to take part in the ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ program at the Chardonnay in the Vineyard World Tour Tasting event,” she said. “The unique sensory tasting experience is designed to help you discover your own Chardonnay profile.”

The Great Chardo Swap will be presented in a two-part session at the School of Cool, each featuring six of the participating Niagara winemakers who will highlight their insights and learnings. Winemakers include:

East-side winemaking team

  • Fabian Reis, Ferox by Fabian Reis
  • J.L. Groux, Stratus Vineyards
  • Ann Sperling, Southbrook Vineyards
  • Amélie Boury, Château des Charmes
  • Nicholas Gizuk, Inniskillin Wines
  • Craig McDonald, Trius Winery

West-side winemaking team

  • Casey Kulczyk, Westcott Vineyards
  • Emma Garner (BSc ’04), Thirty Bench Wine Makers
  • Angelo Pavan/Gabriel Demarco (BSc ’13), Cave Spring Vineyard
  • Lawrence Buhler, Henry of Pelham Family Estate
  • Shiraz Mottiar (BSc ’00), Malivoire Wine Company
  • Thomas Bachelder, Bachelder

Three of the winemakers — Garner, Demarco and Mottiar — are graduates of Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture program.

The Chardonnay grapes used to craft the wines were donated by Inniskillin Wines and Thirty Bench Wine Makers. The labels were designed by Max Kaiser, printed by Artcraft Labels and labelled by Newark Bottling.

The Great Chardo Swap wines from the 2017 and 2018 vintages will be sold online only by BarBea Wine Shop beginning July 22. Mixed cases will include one wine from each of the 12 winemakers. Shipping across Ontario is available. Proceeds will be donated to the Karl J. Kaiser Memorial Fund to establish scholarships for students studying oenology and viticulture at Brock.

Tickets for the School of Cool are still available and can be purchased at

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